Mental illness likely in deaths of 3 in hot car

AP News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2014 6:45 PM

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — A woman who died along with her two young daughters in a hot car last spring had a history of paranoia and most likely had some sort of "psychological break" as the temperature inside the vehicle reached about 120 degrees, the medical examiner's office said Tuesday.

The mother, Allison Pluck, had told family members she was concerned people were following her, and that her older daughter, 18-month-old Shania Gill, was "seeing things," according to autopsy information obtained by The Associated Press.

The bodies of Pluck, Shania and 6-month-old Shameka Gill were found late on the afternoon of June 16, when temperatures outside were near 90. They were inside the car at a middle school parking lot, with the windows rolled up and the ignition off.

Before driving to the school, the 32-year-old Pluck bought a DVD player a local Walmart. Witnesses told police Pluck behaved oddly, the autopsy report said.

"She did not respond to a verbal greeting from a cashier. She also 'ran her hands over the exterior of the box ... for at least three minutes' while at the cashier to purchase it," the report said.

One Walmart worker told police Pluck "looked like she wasn't quite with it." Witnesses said as she left the store, she hit a shopping cart, stopped momentarily, and then continued backing out, pushing the cart with her car.

The medical examiner's office announced in August that Pluck, a native of Guyana, and her daughters died from accidental hyperthermia. The new material was from the final autopsy report.

Pluck was found wearing a shirt, underwear and shoes, with a fleece garment or blanket stuffed inside her shirt and her leggings on the passenger seat next to her, according to the report.

"The circumstances around the death make it most likely that the decedent had some sort of psychological break," Dr. Russell Alexander wrote. "Although it is not possible to know what she was thinking, the circumstances and previous history of paranoid behavior suggest that she did not anticipate that her actions would result in the deaths of herself and her children."